a boy, a girl {not you} and a diamond ring on @KindredGrace

Maybe it was, whatever your age, a schoolgirl crush that will make you shrug and smile in years to come. Maybe it was a deep, genuine, womanly love for the man you hoped to marry and know you’ll never forget.

Or maybe it was both a little bit more and a little bit less. You liked a boy. He liked you too. Your heart stirred and whispered that you could love this boy.

And now, somehow, another girl (but not you) is wearing his diamond ring and you’re adrift in a stormy sea of disappointed hope and unrequited love. Nothing is the same. What do you do now?

1. Guard your tongue.

Yes, I said your tongue, not your heart. Don’t keep your pain a secret, but choose your confidants wisely from your friends and mentors. Tell the story of your pain carefully and intentionally. Don’t shout it from the rooftops of your life for acquaintances and strangers. And when you tell the story of your pain? Don’t disrespect the boy who bruised your heart and the girl who won his heart. Don’t spoil the gift of their love and their happiness with hard words and harsh reflections. Speak words of grace into their lives.

But God … don’t you love the fact that there’s always a “but God” in the stories He writes in our lives?

I want you to know that God understands the words on the tip of your tongue and sees the tears in your eyes. Don’t try to hide your pain from Him. Tell Him all about the boy who touched (and broke) your heart. Tell Him about the hope that made you smile all the time. Tell Him the story of your pain and the bitterness of this moment. And then use your tongue to pray for the boy and the girl and bless the name of the Lord who has given and has taken. Choose to worship in the midst of your pain.

2. Forgive and surrender and release.

Forgive him for being careless with your heart…or just clumsy with his cute smile and friendly words. Forgive her for winning his heart and (probably without an idea in the world of what she’s doing) crushing your dreams. And your dreams? Surrender them and the aching, yearning desire for marriage and motherhood to God. Surrender the so-called little, silly things that caught your heart, like his smile and his thoughtfulness. Release your claim on the boy and his heart.

3. Love.

I don’t think that it’s right to cultivate a romantic love for a boy who is engaged to another girl. But this boy is your brother in Christ. And this girl is your sister in Christ. You are called to love them in Him. Consistently, intentionally surrender the romantic feelings of attraction and attachment (again and again and again). Choose to love your brother and sister in Christ. Read 2 Corinthians 13. Pray for God to pour His love into your heart and out to them through your deeds and words, through your very presence. Practically? Pray for them and their new life. Congratulate them and celebrate with them too. Give them the gift of your friendship: conversation without bitterness, laughter without resentment, recipes and patterns and plans or whatever you share in common.

4. Give.

I often get my heart in line by getting my actions in line and praying that my heart will follow my actions. How do I give grace? I give grace by giving. I’m not thinking of presents. I’m thinking of responding to my pain — and maybe their sin, if there was any in this situation — with kindness and generosity. I’m thinking of seeking to give (what I’d like to receive) rather than grab.

5. Hope in God.

Don’t hope in this boy (or another boy) or your dream of marriage and motherhood. Hope in God. Hope in His lovingkindness. Hope in His compassion. I read Lamentations 3:21-24 every night before I go to sleep:

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”

Hope in Him.

Responding graciously to disappointed hope and unrequited love may be one of the hardest things God asks you to do. Rest your bruised — or maybe even broken — heart in the knowledge that He knows and He cares and He’s with you at this moment. Respond graciously in the strength of His grace.

12 Comments

  1. I just wanted to say thank you so so so much for writing his post! I stumbled across it quite a few months ago, but at the time didn’t pay much attention to it. Now I find myself in nearly exactly this situation (except that they’re not engaged yet, it’s only a unofficial courtship for the time being) and I remembered this post and looked it up again and read it properly this time. It helped and encouraged me like nothing has been able to yet, and so did the previous comment by Elizabeth Sukhovskaya. I have loved this man for the past 15 years, but he only views me as a close friend and sister-in-Christ, and, try as I might, I struggle more than anything to accept the fact that he wants to and probably will marry this other woman as God’s will for our lives. This post really helped me with that, and Elizabeth’s comment gave me hope that, if the Lord wills, things may still change even at this late date, since her husband wasn’t interested in her either until after a few years! Thank you so much for writing this article, and thank you Elizabeth for sharing your personal story, they have encouraged and strengthened me more than you’ll ever know. It’s such a blessing to know that I’m not the only young Cristian woman in this difficult situation out there. Thank you.

  2. Amen! One of the things that was important for me to heal was knowing that God would redeem the time, and the emotions poured out. None of it was a waste. Not even if I never married. It was a long road for me, and pretty messy. I still hope to get my courtship story written up for the collection!

    1. Oh I wish you would! After a bad experience of my own, I sometimes think it was all just a horrid waste of that time in my life. 🙁

      1. I understand that feeling of wastedness. I cannot quote a Bible verses that says that God doesn’t waste our hopes, our love and our pain, but I am reassured by Romans 8:28, which says that God works all things together for good. “All things”, for a single girl, includes hopes that are disappointed, love that is unreturned or rejected and deep, lasting pain. I don’t pretend to understand HOW God works all these things together for good. I just cling to the promise that He does, somehow, for our good and His glory. He doesn’t waste our emotion and our years. He lovingly, somehow, works these darker threads into the tapestry of our lives. Elizabeth said that He REDEEMS our emotion and our years. True. And redemption is sometimes messy, but always beautiful, ultimately.

        1. I was in an “unrequited love” situation and I clearly heard the Lord say to me that I was not to be ashamed for loving this person. It was fine for me to love him as a friend, and the other feelings I daily poured out before the Lord. It was the single most difficult area of surrender. I literally threw up at least once when I thought another girl was the more preferred. Now, this did end up being my husband, but there was no way I could have known it as I still had a 2-3 year wait and he wasn’t interested in me at the time. Before that I had also been in love and been rejected.

          Even when we have loved the “wrong” person (or the right person at the wrong time), we are not pathetic creatures. We have admired godly traits in this man, enjoyed his company, shown our loyalty. This is part of our role as women supporting the men we care about. Of course we make mistakes and need to constantly bring our thought-life under the authority of Christ. Jealousy is an ugly beast, as Elisabeth delicately hints at in this article. But it can all turn into something beautiful.

          1. Elizabeth, thank you so much for sharing your testimony, it’s really encouraging. For those of us who are still in the trenches of singleness (as opposed to the trenches of some other season of life), it’s wonderful to hear the stories of girls who’ve been where we are and have lived to tell the tale of God’s grace, as well as blessed to know that we’re not alone in facing the highs and lows. I appreciate your willingness to share.

          2. Dear Elizabeth,

            I am from Romania : ) and somehow in a similar position …..
            Could you share more on your love story? Or is it written anywhere on your blog, to be read?
            Thank you.

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